Exerting Influence Without Authority

I am not the boss. How can I lead? I am not a full-time employee, just a temporary one. Why would they want to talk to me? I am just a small fry, unlike those big fishes right there in the centre of the room. Perhaps I should skip the meeting.

It is said that we should not aim to achieve triumph in every situation, but rather building bridges and winning hearts over. Communication skills is not easy to master, especially when it comes to dealing with diverse cultures. But at least, with practice and time, we will get used to it and achieve the end goal. It is about identifying the opportunities and stepping in then demonstrate leadership through adding value to the initiative you are in.

One of the articles written by Lauren Keller Johnson suggested lateral leadership. Leadership does not apply to titles or positions. It is the natural inclination of an individual to get things done. The objective is to get things done and not the various ancillary issues that come along with it.

Here are some interconnected strategies that can be used as guidance to help us achieve that.

  1. Networking:
    • Build a network of relationships in and outside your organization
    • Know the people who can connect you to bigger networks
    • Be genuine and associate with all
  1. Constructive persuasion and negotiation
    • Try to achieve a win win situation
    • See your ‘targets’ as peers and learn to listen to understand rather than respond
    • Put yourself in their shoes
  1. Consultation
    • Take the time to visit the people whom you need to be on your side
    • Ask their opinions about the efforts that you are championing
    • Get their ideas and reactions to your ideas
    • Involve the people to participate in defining the process for achieving the outcome
    • Make sure everyone feels part of the journey and not feel left out
  1. Coalition building
    • Gather influential people together to form “a single body of authority
    • Get to know the people before the kickoff of a project
    • Clarify the destination point
    • Strategic and ‘BIG’ picture thought leadership comes effective at this stage
  1. Acknowledgement and feed forward
    • Acknowledge people’s views and thank them for it
    • Celebrate success and always be forward thinking
    • Review areas of improvements at every stage

Often enough, we get so engrossed in our silo roles that we dont really know who should be included in the networking or coalition building effort. To counter this, one should take time to know who are the stakeholders, who are the advisors. For instance, setting aside a day to have lunch with a different person each week.

The next time you want to get more proactive when it comes to driving projects, initiatives, you should say, let’s work things out and make it happen!

 

Art of negotiation

We all negotiate on daily basis. From trying to bargain from items to negotiating to salaries to dealing with a difficult stakeholder. It’s not easy. So how do we deal with such a scenario?

First thing to do is to take a step back and start talking.

Look at the situation with fresh eyes and find that one way (18th camel)  to resolve it with humanity and peace. And it is up to us to play a constructive role to resolve the conflict through communication and reconciliation. At times a third hand may need to intervene, to remind us to get to the balcony, cool down a bit and keep your eyes on the price.

Secondly, offer kindness and hospitality when you expect hostility. Find the potential to change the game, but before that, we must change the framework, the way we see things. See hospitality in hostility, see tourism in terrorism for instance (game changer).

Lastly, find a common ground. You may have to approach a stranger from a different culture, different country, different ethnic group, engage with them and listen to them. That is the third side action.

That’s the third side. The third side is each one of us, taking the first step to the world, bringing peace.

This is a very generic guide to negotiation. But it’s a good start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 6: Think Fast, Talk Smart

I don’t know about you. Sometimes my mouth works faster than my brain. That’s not good when you said the wrong thing and regretted it later. It’s like the consequences have already occurred but your brain takes a while to process the damage. As a result, I would be worried if I am going to be judged, treated as rude and worse, lose a friend or an opportunity.

I decided to listen to this ted talk called ‘Think fast, talk smart’ by Matt Abrahams from Stanford Graduate School of Business. He offers several techniques to help us speak spontaneously with greater confidence and clarity.

Spontaneous speaking occurs more often than we thought and it can be more stressful than planned speaking. For instance, they may happen during the following instances:

  • Introduction
  • Feedback
  • Toasts
  • Q&A

Before we speak, we need to work on the following:

  1. Anxiety Management:
    • Emotions under control otherwise audience will not receive your message and they will be uncomfortable in your presence
    • Greet anxiety: Acknowledge it and its normal to prevent the anxiety from escalating
      • Reframe the speaking situation as a conversation and not a performance
      • Start with questions to get audience involved
      • Use conversational language
      • Be present oriented instead of being worried about the future
        • Listen to music or walk around a building or say tongue twisters to warm up or get into the mood
  2. Ground Rules
    • Improvisational speaking
    • 1st Step: Get out of your own way: We want to be perfect in our speeches
      • Work against your muscle memory to solve problems
      • Do this by shouting names of random things to see things that we do to prevent us from reacting spontaneously
      • Dare to be dull instead of striving for greatness for a while and you will reach that greatness
      • But using greatness as a target can cause you to freeze up, because you tend to overthink
    • 2nd Step: change the way we see our situation we find ourselves in. See it as an opportunity rather than a threat
      • Be aware of the environment: challenges in the room, cold, emotions, acknowledge the emotions of the audience but don’t name the emotions and reframe the response in a way that makes sense
      • Rephrase it as it allows you to reframe the response
      • If audience is remote, engage them to interact, be mindful of them
    • 3rd Step: Approach to a situation/ question: ‘Yes and…’
    • 4th Step: Slow down and listen and respond
  3. Speaking spontaneously
    • Tell a story
    • Use a structure as it increases processing fluency and keep the audience engaged
      • Problem/ Opportunity > Solution > Benefit structure
      • What > So what? > Now what? structure

I am going to practice these techniques in my attempt to be a more effective communicator and achieve my goals at work, during meetings, hostile situations or even outside, while interacting with loved ones. I hope the summary helps to give you an overview of what it takes to speak spontaneously too.

 

Lesson 5: 10 ways to have a better conversation

Damn my big mouth! That’s how I feel after every interview or any other social event. I always have this perception that I talked too much and people may perceive me in a negative manner.

So I listened to this Ted Tv titled as stated in the heading in my attempt to improve my communication skills.

So here are the tips to listen and talk to people:

  1. Don’t multi task:
    • Be present and be in the moment
  2. Don’t pontificate: 
    • Enter a conversation assuming you have something to learn
    • Set aside your personal opinions, and you will slowly open up your mind to your listeners
  3. Use open ended questions (Who, What, Why, Where, How)
  4. Go with the flow
    • Thoughts come to your mind and let it go out your mind
  5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know
    • Be accountable for what you know, expert on, and what you don’t know
  6. Don’t equate your experience with others:
    • Eg: someone talks about loss of a family member, you don’t talk about your bad day at work (It’s not the same)
    • It’s not about you, its about the other party
  7. Don’t repeat yourself, don’t rephrase your points
  8.  Stay out of the weeds
    • People don’t care about the details in your head that you forget to tell them
    • They care about you, what you have in common
  9. ***Listen
    • The most important skill to master
  10. Be brief
    • Be interested to listen
    • Keep your mind open and be prepared to be amazed

So I am going to try these techniques and try to talk to people. I might try a couple of these for my next interviews as well. Hopefully, I won’t set myself up for failure. Fingers crossed!

Lesson 4: How to act quickly without sacrificing critical thinking

Often enough, we get into situations where we should act quickly. If we were too slow to respond, we may be entangled into nasty situations where we get consumed or get caught off guard. If we are too fast, we may be perceived as micromanaging or end up making short term decisions.

How do we balance out both?

According to Jesse Sostrin, we all have reflective urgency. It is defined as the ability to bring conscious, rapid reflection to the priorities of the moment — to align your best thinking with the swiftest course of action.

Step 1: Diagnose your urgency trap:

For a start, we need to set time aside for thinking. I do that three times daily. When I wake up, before lunch and before I leave the office. It may be counterproductive if we don’t know what will limit the quality thinking time. One should recognize the habitual, conscious, counterproductive ways that will prevent us from making us of this dedicated and delicate time.  For instance, attending a meeting unprepared or multi-tasking.

When unsure, ask yourself this question, “When the demands I face increase and my capacity is stretched thin, a counterproductive habit I have is….”

Step 2: Bring focus to the right priorities

Start with things you must focus on, rather than tempted/ wanted to work on…

Step 3: Avoid extreme tilts

Do not treat every situation the same. Evaluate the situation and decide if you need to turn down or increase the level of urgency or reflection. Evaluate if you require tactical action or dynamic thinking more and then allocate time for it.

Anyone can use these three techniques, for work, public speaking and so on. When you combine these micro reflections with a heightened sense of urgency, your decisiveness and speed to impact will not be at the mercy of the counterproductive habits and unconscious oversights that occur when you act without your best thinking.

 

Lesson 3: How to change your brain for good

We all have our ups and downs in life and that often require us to be mindful of what we feel and we will need to motivate ourselves.

There are four steps we can follow to change our brain for the greater good.

I  do hope that by doing this, we will become more focused and certainly reduce the chances of us getting Alzheimer’s disease, seizures, strokes etc.

So here are the four steps to change our brains:

  1. Relabel
    1. Put a label on experiences that are going away from long term values
    2. I am anxious: ‘I am getting anxious now’
    3. Acknowledge your feelings and emotions
  2. Reframe
    1. Use mindful awareness
      1. Process your thoughts into grey instead of black or white
      2.  Know when its good thoughts and when they are bad (cognitive distortion)
    2. Emotional reasoning: Relabel and reframe: figure it out reality versus emotions
  3. Refocus:
    1. Focus your attention in the moment:
      1. Do something constructive using control approach
      2. Divert your attention to something constructive
      3. That’s when you rewire your brain
  4. Revalue
    1. Comes easily when you do the first three regularly
    2. Pattern the first three into your daily life and revalue comes easily
    3. Becomes a positive feedback for your brain to react after

I’m going to try these techniques as I tend to overthink too much at times and often enough, my thoughts do go random.

Lesson 2: How to speak so people want to listen

Morning all and only. I am starting my day by listening to a couple of ted tv videos and pilates.

As I  was listening to Julian Treasure, I learnt the few things about our own unique voices.

There are seven deadly sins of speaking and we should avoid it as much as possible.

  1. Gossip
  2. Judging
  3. Negativity
  4. Complaining
  5. Excuses
  6. Lying
  7. Dogmatism

Four foundations of speaking that we can use to make our speech more powerful. The speaker used the acronym of ‘HAIL’.  The definition is ‘to greet or acclaim enthusiastically’.

  1. H – Honesty
    • Be clear and straight
  2. – Be authentic
    • Be yourself
  3. I – Integrity:
    • Be your word
  4. – Love
    • Wish them well
    • Don’t judge them

A few techniques we can use for speaking will be:

  1. Register your voice
    • Voice from the chest for power and authority
  2. Timbre
    • The way your voice feels
    • We prefer voices that are rich, smooth and warm
  3. Prosody
    • Voice variety not monotone
    • Repetitive prosody (every sentence ends like a question)
    • Break the habit
    • Pace
      • Fast, slow
      • Silence
  4. Pitch
  5. Volume

Do voice exercises before any speech does help too!

Remember that powerful speaking often leads to conscious listening in an environment that is fit for purpose. Create sounds consciously will eventually lead to sounds being received consciously and that will create an awesome environment for sounds and people will reach an understanding of what you are trying to address. That is the end goal of any speech.

 

 

Lesson 1: Structure of Public Speaking

I was listening to a talk on Ted.

Chris Anderson mentioned these four methods to structure your talk:

  1. Start with an idea and build it in the thoughts of your audience
    • Communicate your idea to others
    • Show your perspectives, doesn’t matter if they are different from others, shaping their actions between now and future
    • Ideas that are powerful will shape human culture
  2. Give people a reason to care
    • Stir their curiosity by asking intriguing provocative questions, use language devices
    • Ask lots of why??
    • Reveal the disconnection in their views and they will be able to connect with you
  3. Build your idea in small components using concepts that your audience already understands
    • Start with what the audience knows or understands
    • Use analogy for audience to understand easily (AH HA moment)
    • Test your thoughts with trusted friends and see what they are confused about and improve from there on
  4. Make your idea worth sharing
    • Who does this idea benefit?
      • Audience
      • Does it inspire someone to do something differently?

Here are the four tips that will help one to structure their speech whether it’s meant for presentation, speeches etc. Give this a shot and see how people react to it. I hope this helps you to achieve your goals for whatever speech you are doing for.

Review on Toastmasters Project 10: The Journey

I did my Capstone Project 10 for Toastmasters Competent Communicator on 19th May 2017.

I believed this was my best project by far, not just because I won the ‘Best Prepared Speech’ for the night but also because I  felt was speaking from the heart. It was such a coincidence that my evaluator was a writer himself so he understood my perspective and I am glad I did not set myself up for failure.

The feedback given was that I should have informed the host that that I require a change of environmental settings i:e: pretending we were all at a book signing ceremony.

I was caught trying to recall my script along the way and I should have avoided that. I should have used lesser filter words and made more eye contact. I will probably need to learn to control my nervousness and figure out a way to remember the flow of my speeches and learn how to ‘think fast, talk smart’ after this.

So basically, the setting was a book signing event and I got a printout saying ‘Recipes of Life by Farah Saleh’ and wrapped it around a book. I also had slides showing reviews on the book with my photos.

Before I jumped into the various ratings, let me jot down some other feedback on other P10 speeches for reference’s sake.

To inspire, always ensure the following:

  • I – Intention must be clear
  • T – Methods to inspire/ personal stories
  • M – Methods to inspire the audience / Consider using personal stories if any (like an analogy)
  • A –  Audience: Know your audience and know how to convince/ inspire/ empower them

Other things to take note of include:

  • Have a data/ source of info for persuasion
  • Use of dialogues does have to add creativity
  • Do not use powerpoint slides for speeches between 5-7mins unless for a quick one
  • Use language devices for call to action

Here are the ratings for my speech:

  1. Was the speech relevant to the occasion selected?
    • Excellent
    • The topic was most relevant for the project
  2. Did the speaker understand and express the feelings and needs for the audience?
    • Excellent
    • The speaker was emphatic to express the various emotions and disposition.
  3. Was the speaker forceful, confident and positive?
    • Speaker was confident and convincing.
  4. Did the speaker effectively use stories, anecdotes, and/or quotes to help to convey his or her message?
    • Excellent
    • Speaker used anecdotes, examples and personal stories effectively
  5. Did the speaker’s words convey strong, vivid mental images?
    • Excellent
  6. Did the speaker’s use of body language enhance his/ her message ?
    • Speaker was poised and confidently portrayed the appropriate gestures and postures to motivate the audience to start writing.
  7. Did the speech uplift the audience and motivate them as the speaker intended?
    • Excellent
  8. What could have the speaker done differently to make the speech more effective?
    • Perhaps the speaker could have used the visual aids more effectively, show them bit by bit to ensure the audience is not ahead of the speaker.
    • Try not to worry about phrases that are memorised (Skip them if need to)
  9. What did you like about the speech?
    • The speaker’s convincing appeal to get the audience to start writing through her honest narrative of her own experiences, the highs and the frustrations and her eventual self- fulfillment. The speaker used the timing effectively!

So I have completed my Competent Communicator’s module. I do plan to pursue the other modules as well. I will take a couple of months off to improve on what is lacking here, maybe share them here too. Of course, I am grateful for all the support that has been given to me as well.